How to Create an Annual Marketing Plan

This is article #6 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

When you first start marketing at a B2B startup, it may feel like you have a never ending to-do list. Similar to engineering a product, it’s important to break a big project down into small pieces that make it more digestible. In marketing, these small pieces are documented in an Annual Marketing Plan. This is simply a framework and schedule that keeps your team organized, communicating and on pace towards reaching measurable goals.

Let’s break down what goes into an Annual Marketing Plan:

1. Start with 3 core objectives

What are the most important marketing goals you need to accomplish this year for your team? Are you doing a rebrand, launching a new website, or doubling your lead pipeline? Is it most important for your team to acquire more leads or increase the conversion rate on the leads you already have? Consider these kinds of questions and brainstorm at least 3 (and no more than 5) broad categories that align with your company’s goals.

Throughout the brainstorming process, keep in mind several variables:

Your target persona: how will your marketing plan help you more effectively reach that target?

Your market: are there certain marketing activities or messages that are important to portray this year because of how your market is behaving?

Your budget: how much is it going to cost to accomplish these objectives and the tasks within them? What resource limitations (e.g. headcount) do you have?

The purpose of these categories is to keep your team focused. A good rule of thumb when considering a new project is, “does it fit into one of our core 3 objectives?” If the answer is no, then you should pass. As an example, my team identified 3 core objectives for our marketing last year:

Reestablish our Brand

This category involves updating our website, advertising, social media, messaging, positioning, PR and overall digital property strategy to align with our new product focus.

Build a Foundation of Infrastructure

This category involves launching new CRM and marketing automation systems, building reporting dashboards and defining baselines for our key performance indicators (KPIs).

Drive Demand

This category involves leveraging the first two (reestablish brand, build foundation of infrastructure) to build a quality MQL pipeline. You often need to build and deliver quality leads simultaneously.

2. Break them down into measurable goals and KPIs

Once you have established your 3 broad core objectives, it’s time to further define them by breaking them into measurable, attainable goals. For example:

  • Launch new website
  • Acquire at least 100 MQLs per month
  • Launch CRM with full user adoption
  • Replace all social media property graphics with new branding

Each of these tasks falls into one of your 3 core objective categories. Each is clearly defined and measurable. Once written down, you can allocate tasks and keep your team exceptionally focused on the right objectives.

To recap, a list of each of the 3 objectives, measurable goals within each and appropriate timelines for when they need to be completed makes up the Annual Marketing Plan.

3. Determine budget

Now that you have identified your objectives and the measurable goals within them, let’s talk about the money. Determining your marketing budget is driven by estimating how much it is going to cost to achieve each of your measurable goals. This could include cost of contractors, advertising, new headcount, software subscriptions, stock photos, etc. There is a far more in-depth post on marketing budgets later in this series.

4. Report on them weekly, monthly and quarterly

Now that we have defined our core objectives and tasks/goals within each, it’s key that we continuously measure and report on our progress. Consider the following:

Real-time Dashboards

Some of your goals, like driving MQL pipeline, can be measured in dashboards within your marketing automation system.

Weekly Updates

For goals like “launching a new website,” it’s best to provide your team with weekly status reports and timelines.

Quarterly Reviews

Finally, as you are moving through the year, consider taking time at the end of each quarter to recap the major goals completed and how they relate to each of your 3 strategic objectives. While this type of reporting is often more qualitative, the extra communication is tremendously helpful to keep everyone (on the marketing team and beyond) on the same page.

Note: an annual marketing plan is very different from your weekly content production, social publishing or demand generation campaign schedule. These granular details are very important, and all relate back to one of your measurable goals, and thus to one of your original 3 core objectives.

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